Judge Horne: “I am not ruling that every record in a public official’s possession is a public record.”
So says Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne ahead of a ruling on the appeal to the case wherein a lower court judge has explicitly said otherwise. Readers of this blog know full well my stance on the matter from my previous posts, here, here, here and here. While Judge Horne agrees with most everyone familiar with this case that the issue is how to define personal and public, he doesn’t buy Judge Worcester’s tortured logic that concluded one must assume every utterance, brush of a pen, and tap of a key by a public official represents a public document.
Horne said he had to “respectfully disagree” with Worcester’s broad interpretation of FOIA. “The General Assembly never intended that every record in the possession of a public official is a public record subject to FOIA,” he said.
The issue now, he said, is “how does the court define” personal and public.
Mann, formerly but not currently licensed to practice law in Virginia, represented herself in the appeal before Horne. She conceded that her request was for “public records” but argued that any correspondence between a public official and a constituent is a public record.
It appears that Ms. Mann’s argument isn’t as compelling as she thought, Judge Worcester notwithstanding. Judge Horne, I think, sees with a far clearer vision and a more rational perspective on the FOIA law. While the actual ruling hasn’t been handed down, his statement that he’s not going to make the blanket assertion his colleague on the bench has made in the lower court is already an improvement. I look forward to seeing those rulings and will post what I can when they’re made public.
It looks, from the report, that Loudoun’s own Dean Settle proved to be a huge tripping point for Ms. Mann. The report quotes Settle as describing himself not as an activist but as “an individual with loud opinions.” (Ed.: Heh! Now that’s some truth in advertising! Nicely done, Dean.) Mann’s case that the politicians in question had not fully complied with FOIA rested partly on the fact that some e-mails copied, or “CC’d,” individuals who appeared nowhere else in the document dump. Her assumption was that the e-mails to and from these persons were being hidden from her. As anyone who gets e-mail regularly knows, it’s entirely possible to be a person copied on an e-mail sent from someone you don’t directly correspond with. Apparently, Dean laid that little trap in front of Ms. Mann and she stepped right into it:
Dean Settle, of Lovettsville and one of the seven named correspondents, testified that he had intentionally put the name of Chris Curto, a contact at the Republican Party of Virginia, on the forwarding list of an e-mail he sent Burton, “just to see how far [Mann] would go.”
Mann included Curto on the list of the seven individuals corresponding with the supervisors. “I call it a trap door,” Settle said later.
Curto, Settle testified, “is in no way, shape or form known to Jim Burton.”
The fact that Curto was on the forwarding list and yet had had no direct communications with Burton puts the lie to the argument that such communication must exist. With that argument debunked, the notion that the absence of such e-mails shows some documents were hidden isn’t compelling and that takes the rest of the argument down the drain. Mann argues that the courts should “err to the side of handing over the documents” because she feels that the official in question shouldn’t be the one determining whether the document is public or private. I had this to say regarding that notion:
I also think that judges should err on the side of caution in cases such as these and do what they can to protect the privacy of individuals – those serving in public office no less than those who aren’t. It’s been suggested that the judge could have and should have appointed a “court arbiter” to go over the redacted e-mails in this case and make a call as to whether or not the redacted information dealt with the transaction of public business. That would have provided an unbiased eye on the e-mails (to remove the concept that the person with the interest in keeping things private being the one to determine whether something should be redacted) and a shield for the official’s personal communications such that they weren’t just handed over to a hostile party. I think that would have been the wisest approach in this case.
And I still do. Many agencies have a “compliance officer” to handle FOIA requests such as these. Perhaps Loudoun County and Virginia as a whole should explore this. Hopefully, this issue can be laid to rest and the General Assembly can take up this discussion so cases like this don’t take up valuable court time.
As noted in yesterday’s post on the Florida primary, Rudy Giuliani is slated to not just drop out of the race but is expected to offer an endorsement of John McCain in the process. Everyone’s waiting but they expect it to happen today in California. Adding to that is word that John Edwards is planning to bow out of the Dem nomination race as well, leaving that field to 2 combatants, too.
…are located here. Along the left side of the page are links to the various parts of results pages. Take note of the Reporting Status, Voter Turnout, and Republican Primary/U.S. President links particularly. As of this moment, the last update showing on that page was at 9:11 pm. The standings are: McCain 33.9%, Romney 33.2%, Giuliani 14.0%, Huckabee 13.9%, Paul 3.2%.
Fred Thompson’s got 1.3% and he’s not even running.
I know the networks are doing this off the exit polls but let’s not forget something. All those early voters aren’t at the polling places to walk out of the exits, so they’re not in the network’s sample at all. We’ve got a long way to go, folks.
Update: After writing this post last night, I got involved in other things around the house and only when I was shutting off the lights to go to bed did I realize I’d not even looked to see how things were going. Checking the same site as I listed above I see the standings this morning are: McCain 36%, Romney 31%, Giuliani 14.6%, Huckabee 13.5%, and Paul 3.2%. There are still some counties not showing as completed and there are more of them reporting not yet complete with provisionals than are but I highly doubt anythings going to change in the standings here.
Anyone who has read my stuff knows where my problems with McCain lie. The speech limitations in McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14, the attempted shove-down of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, his comments and attitude toward anyone (but especially Republicans) who think border security should come before handing away the store to illegals, and many more smaller issues combine to add up to someone who’s right on 1 thing – the war – and so very wrong on everything else. I cannot believe that he’ll honestly change any of those things once in the Oval Office. But it appears to be what more of my fellow Republicans want than not. I guess we’ll see where this leads.
Romney’s not dead, either, not by a longshot. Florida’s rules on how the delegates get awarded appear to be, literally, a winner-takes-all approach and that has shot McCain into first place according to CNN’s Delegate Scorecard. Romney’s not so far behind, not this early in things.
Giuliani, however, is very much that far behind. Even coming in 3rd, here, he’s done for and the rumors are that he’ll bow out today. What disappoints me is who he’s bowing out to endorse – McCain. Given his stances on things I suppose he couldn’t endorse Romney. And Huckabee came in behind Giuliani. He’s also got no chance at all and I hope to see him drop out today, too, even if that’ll bring this race down to 2. (What’s that? There’s a 3rd guy still in the race? Ron Paul? Please. Ron Paul was never in this race, at least not outside of the fantasies of his fanatic supporters. He should do the rest of the party a favor and bow out, resign from the GOP, and seek the Libertarian nomination.)
Super Tuesday’s up next and then, on the 12th, we Virginians get a shot at it. Stay tuned, sports fans…
Well, my “venerable” HP Pavillion laptop, acquired just a bit over 5 years ago, has finally bitten the dust. I got it for the consulting work I was doing and it got humped down into DC and back every day for several of those years. I wasn’t overly hard on it but it operated in a few (shall we say?) less than optimum environments. A few days ago I smelled a very unwelcome burning-silicon smell and found that the power supply – both the brick I plug into the wall and the internal unit in the laptop – were so hot I couldn’t hold onto them at all. After quickly unplugging the brick from the wall I had to grab onto the power cord at the back of the machine and pull on it with both hands to get it out of the back of the computer. Looking in both the plug barrel and the port on the laptop, I could see there’d been some arcing. The plug was basically welding itself to the power port.
Needless to say, I don’t want to plug that thing back in but I do need the data that’s on it. Some of the engineers I’ve worked with have shown me some external hard drives they’ve used that were, essentially, laptop drives mounted in an enclosure. Sounded like just the ticket. I looked around and got one of these:
Turn your old internal hard drive into an external hard drive with this enclosure kit designed to accommodate a 2.5″ PATA/EIDE hard drive.
- Easily insert 1 internal 2.5″ PATA/EIDE hard drive (not included) without using any tools
- High-speed USB 2.0 powered for quick and simple connection
- Stores and mirrors digital content, such as music, games, photos, documents and more to securely back up important files
- One-touch button for simple backup, restore and synchronize
- Aluminum design with aerodynamic cooler fin for improved heat dissipation
- Includes USB cable, carrying pouch, cleaning cloth, screw package, CD driver and user manual
After almost killing myself getting the hard drive out of the old laptop, the installation into the enclosure was simplicity itself. Once in there and the lid closed up, I plugged the dual USB cable into 2 USB ports on the new computer (it uses 2 to provide the correct amount of power) and within seconds my old laptop hard drive was recognized as a mass storage device. There were some issues with security and permissions that had to be set correctly to allow the new machine to access the old hard drive, but once I’d figured out what the process was it went very quickly. This is a good product, folks, and you should remember it if you ever have the need as I have.
A McCain-Huckabee ticket? That’s a guaranteed write-in for Fred Thompson from me.
Count me in.
After Fred Thompson’s withdrawal from the nomination race I was determined to take my time in making any decision as to which of the remaining candidates to support. Some of those candidates have made it easy (Paul, Huckabee), some more difficult (Mccain, but let me get back to him in a minute). In the end, however, there’s just no denying that there’s a superior candidate among the competitors and that candidate is Mitt Romney.
Yes, I know. He’s not perfect. None of them are. Neither was Fred, though he was a lot closer than most in my book. The point is, when all of the issues are weighed and all of the items that go into determining whether someone is qualified to be President are considered, the combination of issue stances and experience make Mitt Romney the best choice of the candidates for the GOP nomination. I encourage you to go visit his site (note the link in the upper right column) and read his material for yourself. I encourage you to do your research and weigh the decision on your own as well. I think that when you do you’ll find as I have.
One last thing about Fred Thompson before I (ahem) move on. There’s been a lot of talk around the blogosphere about writing Fred Thompson in on the primary ballot – and perhaps the actual ballot in November. I considered doing just that. Fred’s on the ballot here in Virginia so I wouldn’t even need to write the name in. The problem with doing that is simple: Fred himself declared he’s no longer in the running. By casting my ballot for him, I’m casting it for a man who does not want the position. To be honest, I feel that’s disrespectful of the decision he made. So I’m not going to do it. I’m going to do what my duty as an American citizen demands and vote from the options available to us for this decision before us. I hope Fred makes another run at it. (I hope Mitt does the smart thing and begs Fred to come on board as VP.) But the decision of the republic waits for no man and I’ve got a job to do.
I hope other Virginia FredHeads will join my in this decision and I hope to meet many of them in this campaign ahead.
It’s been a home project day so I’ve been “news-blind” for the past several hours. Some items of note:
A spy satellite has lost power and is headed for an uncontrolled re-entry. This is bad for several reasons but I’m not sure what they can do about it. The bird is due to come down in late February or early March. Could the shuttle be scrambled to rendezvous with it and either repair it or put in into a safe orbit? Perhaps fit it with some kid of rockets that would allow a controlled re-entry where it won’t hurt anyone on the way down?
In an event that is no doubt causing all manner of cheerful faces over in the fever swamp of the Left, President Bush is getting ready to deliver the last State of the Union address he’s going to give. Frankly, it’ll probably be far more interesting to note the reactions to the President’s speech than the speech itself.
Finally, Hillary Clinton is flipping the proverbial bird to the DNC by heading down to Florida to stump there in spite of DNC’s penalizing Florida for moving their primary up. Florida is to be denied seating for their delegates at the Convention later this year and the candidates were asked to comply with the DNC’s request that they not campaign there. Clinton, true to form, won’t have anything to do with that. She’s riding to the rescue to make sure Florida’s Democrats’ “voices are heard.” One might note that they would have been heard just fine had they not undertaken an action their national committee specifically prohibited. Clinton wants them to be able to spit in the eye of the national party and be respected by having their delegates seated anyway. Nice.
Captain Ed Morrissey over at Captain’s Quarters has a post up this morning referring to this story at the Telegraph in the UK. Doctors and other decision-makers tied with the National Health Service in the UK are saying that there should be restrictions on treatment to people who are, “[s]mokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly”. While there are those who might see some rationale for refusing to cover certain procedures made necessary by a person’s decision to start smoking, I don’t think the suggestion that someone shouldn’t get medical treatment because they’re too old is going to get many supporters. As Ed says:
Do you want government to tell you that your mother or father are simply too old to matter anymore? Would you like to have that happen in a system where either the private care choices are out of reach because the government has removed all of the private insurers from the market, or they don’t exist, as in Canada?
I certainly don’t. The point is, this is precisely where government-run healthcare leads to. There might be a way to hold off reaching this point, but that way usually involves raising taxes to outrageous levels (75%, anyone?) in order to keep paying for the services. It might take a few years to get there in America, but it’ll come eventually.
I am reminded of Joe Halderman’s book, The Forever War. In it, the key character, Mandella, is a soldier in an interstellar war which is made possible through a time-dilation method of travel – the soldiers perceive time as a matter of days where, outside of their ship, decades or centuries can pass. Upon returning home that first time, he finds his own mother seriously ill. Contacting the local medical authorities, he’s told she basically doesn’t qualify for medical assistance, forcing Mandella to try to acquire the necessary drugs and gear via the black market. There’s been a lot of science fiction that never has broken into reality, but there’s a lot that has. This one will, if we permit it.
McQ over at QandO has a terrific post up that shows (even more) the ridiculousness of that Soros-funded “journalistic study” about the “false statements” made by President Bush ahead of the Iraq invasion. See if you can figure out who said the various quotes he’s got listed. His conclusion at the end is irrefutable.
Nicely done, sir.
According to this story a federal judge has ruled in the case against NYC Mayor Bloomberg that no crime or fraud had occurred in Bloomberg’s sending private investigators into Virginia to make straw purchases of guns. Her reasoning? Even though the Mayor’s team made the purchases, they never actually transferred the guns to anyone, ergo no straw purchase actually occurred.
I’m sorry but this seems all too pat an answer. If I were to walk up to an ATM and attempt to hack into it for the purpose of getting it to spit out all of its cash to me but failed to actually get the job done, is the judge saying that I’ve committed no crime? If I were to attempt to hack into the judicial computer systems the judge uses on a daily basis from my home, would she say the same thing? There are all manner of crimes that one can be guilty of in merely making the attempt. I think it’s clear that the Mayor’s team was intent on making an illegal purchase – that was the entire point of the exercise! – and the only reason they didn’t actually transfer the guns was because they considered the buy a straw purchase the minute they walked out of the door of the gun store with the gun. That’s the whole reason they were able to extort other gun shop owners into submitting to their inspection regimen.
The judge’s ruling was based upon the lack of intent. The investigators bought the guns but never intended to actually transfer them, so no straw purchase was committed. I don’t see it that way. Whether the intent to actually transfer the gun was there or not, the intent to commit a crime – the straw purchase – was absolutely there. Again, that was the whole point of their action. And let me propose yet another question to the judge: if a person bought a gun intending it as a straw purchase, but was apprehended before actually handing it over, would that person be innocent of any wrongdoing?
I don’t think the judge would like letting a gun runner go just because he was less competent than the cops.
The gun shop owners in this case are also claiming it as a victory, however. They say that if, as the judge has ruled, no crime was committed then no straw purchase was made. Ergo, they did nothing wrong. If that’s the case, then one might suppose they have a decent libel case against the Mayor for accusing them of illegal activities when he and his team knew they had done no such thing.
Either way, we in Virginia have already placed the good Mayor on notice that his little stunt won’t fly here again. Our AG Bob McDonnell sent a personal notification to the Mayor of the law we passed here specifically making his kind of operation a felony. Try it again and you’ll do time in our jails, bub. Count yourself lucky with this ruling and stick to mucking up the lives of New Yorkers. We don’t need your “help” down here in Virginia.